Travel Blog #5: Death Valley, the Badwater Basin and John C. Van Dyke's, "The Desert"
Written by Jiarui Ye
The air tastes like salt and sweetness. Walking in the dry air of Southern California usually gives me a strong urge to sneeze from the pollen (thank you, spring), but not today. When someone asks what I think of the term, desert, it can sometimes be deferred to thinking about someplace similar to this one. I find that interesting, since we have plentiful water in the city. However, heading more inward into the state, the more we see a change in scenery and suddenly, this place is no longer the City of Angels but rather, the City of Death, more specifically, Death Valley.
I had begun my journey in Pasadena, California, and head onto the 134, to get to the 110. I soon switch gears, heading North on the 14 freeway, passing through Palmdale and the famed Red Rock Canyon Park. 90 miles later, I split off near Red Rock Canyon Park to head into deeper forest for the reaming 70 miles. Once I arrive, it's quite an ordeal to get inside. There are no gas stations in sight, an act of kindness to the trees, protecting them from fire hazards. The looping trail is long and windy, tourist destinations at every stop. There is so much majesty in this place.
(If you prefer not to drive, there is a great shuttle service that takes you through this trail.)
And then, there, in the middle of the desert, I see an amazing salt reserve. I was shocked —this was the Badwater Basin. A major facet that draws much attention to Death Valley. The scenery is amazing. For those of you who don't know what a Badwater Bain is, imagine a world of snow but with no ice. White landscape - but no water in sight.
I begin to feel deeply connected to nature while in this Death Valley place and I think of the novel, “The Desert,” by John C Van Dyke. These majestic views are what make the connections between Western society and depopulated utopian. Throughout the novel, there is no mention of different individuals; no one is separated from nature, instead they are nature:
“It’s just him with his art connoisseur’s eye and the shifting sunlight across the desert landscape.”
The possibilities of what a Western desert could do opened up the possibility of of its beauty. The elements of Death Valleys are changed by this and the lush picturesque background is holds is discovered. Contrary to typical sand dunes, the Badwater Basin is a beautiful white sea that draws individuals in like bee to honey. The long winding roads of the desert lead to nowhere and are filled with the sandy remnants of eroding rocks. Twisting round and around, the roads are a symbol of the convoluting decisions in our lives surrounding us, but inside - only peace.
From the world’s lowest point to the beautiful white pools that litter around the hiking paths, many people - including myself - are filled with child-like awe. The scenery assimilates into the natural background and it is so hard not to stop and bask in the beauty of the Basin. Traveling to these places provides something that city life cannot: the welcome of salt to an open wound. The welcome of this Badwater Basin into the deepest parts of ourselves - the love and the hate - the interconnectedness of it all - and finding yourself stripped beautifully raw with openness, all from the salt and sweetness.
Jiarui Ye is a travel writer and a student at PCC majoring in business and finance. She says, "She enjoys theology and politics when she isn't traveling or taking photos."
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